Samsung has a keen interest in displays that are curved or bendable. The South Korean electronics giant offers televisions with curved displays – even showing off the world’s first curved 4K ultra-high definition TV at the IFA consumer electronics expo earlier this month.
As far back as January’s CES convention, Samsung has been teasing smaller-scale mobile displays that can bend, roll, and fold. The company’s “Youm” prototype had a screen that stretched around the edges of the phone, allowing notifications to be displayed there.
Although the Galaxy Gear smartwatch and Galaxy Note 3 were both rumored to sport flexible screens, neither device ended up incorporating them. At a launch event for the Galaxy Note 3 in Seoul earlier today, however, a Samsung executive said that such a handset will be arriving next month – but consumers outside of South Korea might not want to get too excited.
Lee declined to name the handset or offer an exact release date or pricing information. There is no indication that it will be sold outside of South Korea either.
Although a radically curved, bendable, or foldable handset has yet to be produced, Samsung has prior experience with a curved form factor. “The Nexus S had a gentle curve on it, but in that case it was the glass, not the screen itself that was curved,” said The Verge.
Last May, Samsung was granted a design patent from the US Patent and Trademark office for a “Slightly Curved Display Smartphone.” Unlike the Nexus S, which curved from top to bottom, the illustration that accompanied the patent application showed a device that was curved along its vertical axis. This is likely to be the form factor that Samsung shows off next month.
Although Apple is expected to rebound after the release of two new iPhones, Samsung overtook its Cupertino-based archrival to become the world’s top smartphone maker in July. As curved-display technology becomes increasingly popular, Samsung seems very interested in positioning itself as the innovator.
The New York Times reported last February that Apple was “experimenting with wristwatch-like devices made of curved glass.” Samsung missed the opportunity with its own smartwatch, so perhaps the curved-display smartphone will be an attempt to stay ahead of Apple.
Aside from ergonomics, skeptics have questioned the merits of a curved display. Unless the plastic and/or metal back panels, batteries, and internal components can be designed to flex, the curved panel will remain limited in its functionality. There is likely a long road ahead before the bendable display can reach its full potential.